Aid Group: Yemen Fighting Pushes Tens of Thousands of Citizens Closer to Starvation

The U.N. makes an emotional plea for humanitarian aid as the cease-fire ebbs between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government in Yemen.

Workers unload bags of food from a UN's World Food Programme ship docked in Yemen's devastated port city of Aden on July 21, 2015 as it brings in desperately needed relief supplies after four months of fierce fighting between rebels and loyalist fighters. The humanitarian aid arrived as forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi pressed on with operations to tighten their control over the southern city.   AFP PHOTO / STR        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers unload bags of food from a UN's World Food Programme ship docked in Yemen's devastated port city of Aden on July 21, 2015 as it brings in desperately needed relief supplies after four months of fierce fighting between rebels and loyalist fighters. The humanitarian aid arrived as forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi pressed on with operations to tighten their control over the southern city. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers unload bags of food from a UN's World Food Programme ship docked in Yemen's devastated port city of Aden on July 21, 2015 as it brings in desperately needed relief supplies after four months of fierce fighting between rebels and loyalist fighters. The humanitarian aid arrived as forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi pressed on with operations to tighten their control over the southern city. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

An estimated 25,000 additional Yemeni civilians each day are being pushed toward starvation as fighting continues in the nation’s civil war and an ongoing Saudi Arabia blockade limits food, water, fuel and other aid from entering the country, Oxfam International concluded in a new report Monday.

In the capital Sanaa, residents say they are begging, polishing shoes, and depending on donations to be able to buy food, according to people interviewed for the report. In the western Hajjah governorate, Yemen’s farmers are selling their livestock far below market prices in what Oxfam called “a tell-tale sign that people are starting to face a serious food crisis.”

Yemen has historically faced food shortages, and an estimated 10 million of its 26 million people were identified as dangerously in need of food even before the civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government escalated in late March. The violence -- along with the blockade that Riyadh imposed to limit Tehran's aid to the Houthis -- has since caused an additional 2.3 million Yemeni to go hungry.

An estimated 25,000 additional Yemeni civilians each day are being pushed toward starvation as fighting continues in the nation’s civil war and an ongoing Saudi Arabia blockade limits food, water, fuel and other aid from entering the country, Oxfam International concluded in a new report Monday.

In the capital Sanaa, residents say they are begging, polishing shoes, and depending on donations to be able to buy food, according to people interviewed for the report. In the western Hajjah governorate, Yemen’s farmers are selling their livestock far below market prices in what Oxfam called “a tell-tale sign that people are starting to face a serious food crisis.”

Yemen has historically faced food shortages, and an estimated 10 million of its 26 million people were identified as dangerously in need of food even before the civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government escalated in late March. The violence — along with the blockade that Riyadh imposed to limit Tehran’s aid to the Houthis — has since caused an additional 2.3 million Yemeni to go hungry.

A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington declined to comment Monday since he had not yet seen the Oxfam report. Another person close to the kingdom’s embassy noted that Houthi attacks — including reported shelling Sunday in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz shortly after the start of a planned five-day cease-fire — also have led to the deaths and desperation of many civilians.

The cease-fire appeared to be over Monday, only a day after it began, with ramped-up Saudi airstrikes and Houthi attacks that killed at least 15 fighters allied with an international coalition against the rebels, according to the Associated Press. An estimated 1,500 people have been killed in the civil war, which is widely viewed as a proxy battle between Sunni-dominated Arab Gulf states and Shiite Iran.

In the port city of Aden, the United Nations’ top humanitarian relief official made an emotional plea Sunday for both sides to allow more aid to get to civilians caught in the crossfire. He said only 15 percent of a $1.6 billion emergency relief fund for Yemen has been filled by international donors. Riyadh has pledged one of the largest chunks of that fund, just under $274 million, but it is not clear if the money has been delivered, and the U.N. did not respond to messages Monday seeking clarity.

Earlier this month, Oxfam reported that 16 million Yemenis — about two-thirds of the population — lack clean water and sanitation. That’s in part because they do not have fuel to operate water pumps. The Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports allow only 20 percent of the fuel that is needed into the country, the relief agency said.

Oxfam long has been critical of Saudi Arabia’s war strategy, and one of the relief group’s warehouses in Yemen was bombed in mid-April. The agency has had to pull most, if not all, of its international staff from Yemen as the violence escalated.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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